Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Uncredited photo via BinsBox

Longtime commenter Procopius writes with reference to yesterday's post:
I'm hampered here, because my initial reaction to the initial accusations of Russian interference being so effective that it caused Hillary to lose the eledtion was, "Are you kidding me?" Since then I've felt gaslighted since, for example, the advertisements FaceBook identified as examples of "Russian Influence" were mostly purchased after the election and were mostly trivial click-bait. I've said so, so please don't think I'm trying to be disingenuous when I pull out your
Junior's cheerful acceptance of the Russian offer of stolen documents "as part of Russia and its government's support for the Trump campaign" (whoever drafted that expression for Goldstone might as well have been working to incriminate Junior, as if they were planning to use it as kompromat), is unquestionably a crime
OK, we're talking about many different possible crimes, and I applaud your even-handedness in this article. Since there are at least 5,000 felonies defined in the United States Code, many of which are only prosecuted when a prosecutor gets really obsessive about a particular defendant, and so most of us routinely commit a couple of felonies every day without realizing it, just what crime is this unquestionably? A violation of election finance laws?

This is an openly partisan blog, so you can spare me the sarcasm about "evenhandedness".

I'm not familiar with whatever you're citing on the FaceBook manipulation, so I can't really argue with it, but I was under the impression that the ads bought by Internet Research Agency trolls weren't meant to persuade anybody but to gather the volunteer army of reposters who shared the unpaid material posted from bot accounts, from anti-Semitic memes of Hillary and Soros to the "Pizzagate" scandal, that was actually effective:

the ads are only part of the story: They sought to hook American voters into clicking “Like” or following Russia-created Facebook profiles and pages, which published organic content, like status updates, videos and other posts, which would later appear in users’ News Feeds.
From a WaPo story saying the ads started coming in mid-2015. I don't look at FaceBook often, but I assure you what I now recognize as Russian bots were driving a hurricane of Clinton scandal traffic on my Twitter in the weeks leading up to the election and I was very aware of it.

That material, presumably microtargeted on rightwingers in those counties in WI and MI and PA to enrage and terrify them into coming out and voting when they were likelier to stay home, was only one of the tools supplied by Russians; the other big one was the material they'd stolen from Democrats and given to WikiLeaks, in the arrangement formalized in the Trump Tower meeting of 9 June 2016, enveloping Clinton in a fog of vague corruption allegations, intended to discourage you consumer-preference leftists from voting at all, which seems to have been much more effective than I expected it to be in October 2016.

Clinton didn't lose the election, of course; she won it, with a very substantial plurality of three million votes, but lost the crazy Electoral College ritual combat designed by the Founders to thwart the popular will. She lost that by fewer than 80,000 votes in three states, quite a bit fewer than the 130,000 votes earned by consumer-preference leftist Jill Stein in those same states, which doesn't prove that the Russians did it but is just pretty fucking odd, in the first US national election where microtargeting was a thing, shortly after the Brexit referendum in which the same techniques were used by some of the same agencies with similarly unexpectable results.

It's my position that no single factor can explain the 2016 election, Democrats certainly made many mistakes, Republicans played the state-department email thing (which clearly had nothing to do with Russia) extremely well, chance events played a role, I expect we'll be learning more about assistance from other countries—Saudi Arabia and Israel in particular—not to mention the Bannon-Mercer organization, and the sheer idiocy of Trump's candidacy threw everybody off balance, not least the journalists who did such a terrible job of covering the thing, and so on. Nevertheless, if you're trying to kill somebody with a gun and they fall over a cliff running away from you and die, aren't you guilty of something?

Yes, Junior accepting the proffer of "high-level and sensitive information" from the Russian government was a campaign finance violation. Andrew C. McCarthy said he knew of no proof that any crime had taken place and I meant to show he was wrong. If you want to get a sense of how serious it was in and of itself, whether it was just one of those felonies you commit once or twice a day or something more important, a good introduction is this piece by Bob Bauer/Just Security on how it looked in summer 2017. a month or so before the Trump Tower meeting became a matter of public knowledge.

IANAL, but I think the criminality of the thing is aggravated by the criminality of the context in which it took place, because it definitely wasn't the only crime: like the fact that the particular materials the Russians were offering had been acquired by cyberhacking theft. If the Russian side made its contribution in return for favors deliverable in the event of Trump becoming president—the lifting of sanctions—that's bribery, and the arrangement of permissions for the Trump Tower Moscow project was bribery too. Side corruption for Page and Papadopoulos and Cohen and Flynn, bank fraud and money laundering on all sides for which quite a few prosecutions (against Cohen, Manafort, and Gates) have already been successfully prosecuted, perjury everywhere, suggest a pattern of the kind that prosecutors generally approach with the RICO statute—organized crime or racketeering:
the interlocking web of alleged criminality that Mueller is investigating bears a strong resemblance to exactly the kind of organized criminal activity that the RICO statute was designed to combat.
If McCarthy doesn't see it, I think it's because he doesn't want to see it, or is being paid not to. Don't know about you.

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